2, 1943, AT 10:00 PM, E.W.T.
MY FELLOW AMERICANS:
I am speaking tonight to the American people, and in particular to
those of our citizens who are coal miners.
Tonight this country faces a serious crisis. We are engaged in a war
on the successful outcome of which will depend the whole future of our
This war has reached a new critical phase. After the years that we
have spent in preparation, we have moved into active and continuing
battle with our enemies. We are pouring into the world-wide conflict
everything that we have -- our young men, and the vast resources of
I have just returned from a two weeks' tour of inspection on which
I saw our men being trained and our war materials made. My trip took
me through twenty states. I saw thousands of workers on the production
line, making airplanes, and guns and ammunition. Everywhere I found
great eagerness to get on with the war. Men and women are working long
hours at difficult jobs and living under difficult conditions without
Along thousands of miles of track I saw countless acres of newly ploughed
fields. The farmers of this country are planting the crops that are
needed to feed our armed forces, our civilian population and our Allies.
Those crops will be harvested. On my trip, I saw hundreds of thousands
of soldiers. Young men who were green recruits last autumn have matured
into self-assured and hardened fighting men. They are in splendid physical
condition. They are mastering the superior weapons that we are pouring
out of our factories.
The American people have accomplished a miracle. However, all of our
massed effort is none too great to meet the demands of this war. We
shall need everything that we have and everything that our Allies have
to defeat the Nazis and the Fascists in the coming battles on the Continent
of Europe, and the Japanese on the Continent of Asia and in the Islands
of the Pacific.
This tremendous forward movement of the United States and the United
Nations cannot be stopped by our enemies.
And equally, it must not be hampered by any one individual or by the
leaders of any one group here back home.
I want to make it clear that every American coal miner who has stopped
mining coal -- no matter how sincere his motives, no matter how legitimate
he may believe his grievances to be -- every idle miner directly and
individually is obstructing our war effort. We have not yet won this
war. We will win this war only as we produce and deliver our total American
effort on the high seas and on the battle fronts. And that requires
unrelenting, uninterrupted effort here on the home front.
A stopping of the coal supply, even for a short time, would involve
a gamble with the lives of American soldiers and sailors and the future
security of our whole people. It would involve an unwarranted, unnecessary
and terribly dangerous gamble with our chances for victory.
Therefore, I say to all miners -- and to all Americans everywhere,
at home and abroad -- the production of coal will not be stopped.
Tonight, I am speaking to the essential patriotism of the miners,
and to the patriotism of their wives and children. And I am going to
state the true facts of this case as simply and as plainly as I know
After the attack at Pearl Harbor, the three great labor organizations
-- the American Federation of Labor, the Congress of Industrial Organizations,
and the Railroad Brotherhoods -- gave the positive assurance that there
would be no strikes as long as the war lasted. And the President of
the United Mine workers of America was a party to that assurance.
That pledge was applauded throughout the country. It was a forcible
means of telling the world that we Americans -- 135,000,000 of us --
are united in our determination to fight this total war with our total
will and our total power. At the request of employers and of organized
labor - including the United Mine Workers -- the War Labor Board was
set up for settling any disputes which could not be adjusted through
collective bargaining. The War Labor Board is a tribunal on which workers,
employers and the general public are equally represented.
In the present coal crisis, conciliation and mediation were tried
In accordance with the law, the case was then certified to the War
Labor Board, the agency created for this express purpose with the approval
of organized labor. The members of the Board followed the usual practice
which has proved successful in other disputes. Acting promptly, they
undertook to get all the facts of this (the) case from both the miners
and the operators.
The national officers of the United Mine Workers, however, declined
to have anything to do with the fact-finding of the War Labor Board.
The only excuse that they offer is that the War Labor Board is prejudiced.
The War Labor Board has been and is ready to give this (the) case
a fair and impartial hearing. And I have given my assurance that if
any adjustment of wages is made by the Board, it will be made retroactive
to April first. But the national officers Of the United Mine Workers
refused to participate in the hearing, when asked to do so last Monday.
On Wednesday of this past week, while the Board was proceeding with
the case, stoppages began to occur in some mines. On Thursday morning
I telegraphed to the officers of the United Mine Workers asking that
the miners continue mining coal on Saturday morning. However, a general
strike throughout the industry became effective on Friday night.
The responsibility for the crisis that we now face rests squarely
on these national officers of the United Mine Workers, and not on the
Government of the United States. But the consequences of this arbitrary
action threaten all of us everywhere.
At ten o'clock, yesterday morning -- Saturday -- the Government took
over the mines. I called upon the miners to return to work for their
Government. The Government needs their services just as surely as it
needs the services of our soldiers, and sailors, and marines -- and
the services of the millions who are turning out the munitions of war.
You miners have sons in the Army and Navy and Marine Corps. You have
sons who at this very minute -- this split second -- may be fighting
in New Guinea, or in the Aleutian Islands, or Guadalcanal, or Tunisia,
or China, or protecting troop ships and supplies against submarines
on the high seas. We have already received telegrams from some of our
fighting men overseas, and I only wish they could tell you what they
think of the stoppage of work in the coal mines.
Some of your own sons have come back from the fighting fronts, wounded.
A number of them, for example, are now here in an Army hospital in Washington.
Several of them have been decorated by their Government.
I could tell you of one from Pennsylvania. He was a coal miner before
his induction, and his father is a coal miner. He was seriously wounded
by Nazi machine gun bullets while he was on a bombing mission over Europe
in a Flying Fortress. Another boy, from Kentucky, the son of a coal
miner, was wounded when our troops first landed in North Africa six
There is (still) another, from Illinois. He was a coal miner -- his
father and two brothers are coal miners. He was seriously wounded in
Tunisia while attempting to rescue two comrades whose jeep had been
blown up by a Nazi mine.
These men do not consider themselves heroes. They would probably be
embarrassed if I mentioned their names over the air. They were wounded
in the line of duty. They know how essential it is to the tens of thousands
-- hundreds of thousands --and ultimately millions of other young Americans
to get the best of arms and equipment into the hands of our fighting
forces -- and get them there quickly.
The fathers and mothers of our fighting men, their brothers and sisters
and friends -- and that includes all of us -- are also in the line of
duty -- the production line. Any failure in production may well result
in costly defeat on the field of battle.
There can be no one among us -- no one faction powerful enough to
interrupt the forward march of our people to victory.
You miners have ample reason to know that there are certain basic
rights for which this country stands, and that those rights are worth
fighting for and worth dying for. That is why you have sent your sons
and brothers from every mining town in the nation to join in the great
struggle overseas. That is why you have contributed so generously, so
willingly, to the purchase of war bonds and to the many funds for the
relief of war victims in foreign lands. That is why, since this war
was started in 1939, you have increased the annual production of coal
by almost two hundred million tons a year.
The toughness of your sons in our armed forces is not surprising.
They come of fine, rugged stock. Men who work in the mines are not unaccustomed
to hardship. It has been the objective of this Government to reduce
that hardship, to obtain for miners and for all who do the nation's
work a better standard of living.
I know only too well that the cost of living is troubling the miners'
families, and troubling the families of millions of other workers throughout
the country as well. A year ago it became evident to all of us that
something had to be done about living costs. Your Government determined
not to let the cost of living continue to go up as it did in the first
Your Government has been determined to maintain stability of both
prices and wages -- so that a dollar would buy, so far as possible,
the same amount of the necessities of life. And by necessities I mean
just that -- not the luxuries, not the (and) fancy goods that we have
learned to do without in wartime.
So far, we have not been able to keep the prices of some necessities
as low as we should have liked to keep them. That is true not only in
coal towns but in many other places.
Wherever we find that prices of essentials have risen too high, they
will be brought down. Wherever we find that price ceilings are being
violated, the violators will be punished.
Rents have been fixed in most parts of the country. In many cities
they have been cut to below where they were before we entered the war.
Clothing prices have generally remained stable.
These two items make up more than a third of the total budget of the
As for food, which today accounts for about another (a) third of the
family expenditure on the average, I want to repeat again: your Government
will continue to take all necessary measures to eliminate unjustified
and avoidable price increases. And we are today (now) taking measures
to "roll back" the prices of meats.
The war is going to go on. Coal will be mined no matter what any individual
thinks about it. The operation of our factories, our power plants, our
railroads will not be stopped. Our munitions must move to our troops.
And so, under these circumstances, it is inconceivable that any patriotic
miner can choose any course other than going back to work and mining
The nation cannot afford violence of any kind at the coal mines or
in coal towns. I have placed authority for the resumption of coal mining
in the hands of a civilian, the Secretary of the Interior. If it becomes
necessary to protect any miner who seeks patriotically to go back and
work, then that miner must have and his family must have -- and will
have -- complete and adequate protection. If it becomes necessary to
have troops at the mine mouths or in coal towns for the protection of
working miners and their families, those troops will be doing police
duty for the sake of the nation as a whole, and particularly for the
sake of the fighting men in the Army, the Navy and the Marines -- your
sons and mine -- who are fighting our common enemies all over the world.
I understand the devotion of the coal miners to their union. I know
of the sacrifices they have made to build it up. I believe now, as I
have all my life, in the right of workers to join unions and to protect
their unions. I want to make it absolutely clear that this Government
is not going to do anything now to weaken those rights in the coal fields.
Every improvement in the conditions of the coal miners of this country
has had my hearty support, and I do not mean to desert them now. But
I also do not mean to desert my obligations and responsibilities as
President of the United States and Commander in Chief of the Army and
The first necessity is the resumption of coal mining. The terms of
the old contract will be followed by the Secretary of the Interior.
If an adjustment in wages results from a decision of the War Labor Board,
or from any new agreement between the operators and miners, which is
approved by the War Labor Board, that adjustment will be made retroactive
to April first.
In the message that I delivered to the Congress four months ago, I
expressed my conviction that the spirit of this nation is good.
Since then, I have seen our troops in the Caribbean area, in bases
on the coasts of our ally, Brazil, and in North Africa. Recently I have
again seen great numbers of our fellow countrymen -- soldiers and civilians
-- from the Atlantic Seaboard to the Mexican border and to the Rocky
Tonight, in the fact of a crisis of serious proportions in the coal
industry, I say again that the spirit or this nation is good. I know
that the American people will not tolerate any threat offered to their
Government by anyone. I believe the coal miners will not continue the
strike against their (the) Government. I believe that the coal miners
(themselves) as Americans will not fail to heed the clear call to duty.
Like all other good Americans, they will march shoulder to shoulder
with their armed forces to victory. Tomorrow the Stars and Stripes will
fly over the coal mines, and I hope that every miner will be at work
under that flag.